If you are familiar with daytime talk TV shows, or maybe just pop culture in general, perhaps you’ve witnessed the scene. The baritone-voiced talk show host, with all the appropriate dramatic pauses, tells the man sitting on stage the results of a DNA paternity test. “You are… not the father,” the host exclaims. The man dances. The woman cries. YouTube users compile the scenarios for “Best of” and “Top 5” videos. These issues also occur outside daytime TV, and they are very serious matters. Many real lives may be dramatically altered by the outcomes of these procedures. So, what happens if you think you may need to disestablish legal paternity of a child in Florida? A recent case decided by the First District Court of Appeal, in resolving the case of one man, highlights some options available under this state’s law.
In television’s daytime soap operas, familial relationship dynamics can be complex, and tracing one’s family tree sometimes is… challenging. In the real world, when your child is the product of a non-traditional situation, this can sometimes greatly heighten the hurdles you face when it comes to obtaining and exercising your rights to be a part of your child’s life. One father recently obtained some good news when the 4th District Court of Appeal reinstated his paternity order, ruling that the child’s mother could not contest that order based upon her having been married to another man at the time of the child’s birth.
The case revolved around the paternity of C.M.D., a child born to Ruby Kane. Kane, at the time of C.M.D.’s birth, was known as Ruby Struber and was married to Christopher Struber. C.M.D.’s biological father, however, was Jordan Drouin.
In unfortunately too many cases, a child grows up “fatherless” because his or her father fails to assume his parental responsibilities or because the child’s mother does not know who the father is. But what about cases where multiple men have stepped up to claim fatherhood?
This was the issue presented to one Florida appeals court earlier this year when a married woman gave birth to a child conceived as a result of her extramarital affair. Even though everyone involved agreed that the wife’s extramarital partner was the child’s biological father, this ultimately did not matter. In cases where a child is born to a woman who is part of an intact marriage, biological paternity was “legally insignificant” to the determination of legal paternity, according to the 2d District Court of Appeal‘s ruling.
Father’s rights and paternity issues are hotly contested in Florida as in other jurisdictions. More weight is placed, in some cases, on Florida’s statutory definitions of family than on DNA tests, making it critical to get the help of an experienced Florida attorney.
In a recent case, a mother had given birth to a child in 2004 while married. The child was not born out wedlock and lived with his mother’s parents from birth. The parental rights of the mother’s husband were never terminated and he had an obligation to support the child. The mother died when the child was four. Her mother (the child’s grandmother) filed a petition for temporary custody. The mother’s husband gave written consent. The trial court awarded her temporary custody.
Meanwhile, another man filed a petition for determination of paternity in the same court. He did not meet the definitions of “parent” under Florida’s statutes, but he claimed DNA testing showed him to be the biological father of the child.
In January 2013, Miami-Dade County Judge Antonio Marin allowed an agreement between three people, permitting all three names be recorded on their daughter’s birth certificate as legitimate legally recognized parents.
Two of the people, a lesbian couple, met the third, a gay male hairstylist, in 2006 by patronizing his salon. The business relationship evolved to a true friendship between the three and after a few discussions over 2008-2009, the man agreed to help the couple conceive a child. In 2010, the three initiated an insemination process that was soon successful. The man and one of the women became biological parents of the couple’s baby. According to the man, an agreement that he would be the “father” and would be able to see the child whenever he wished was made orally before the conception. The man claimed he couldn’t foresee the potential paperwork mess that might occur with three possible parents.
After the conception, the man had been approached by the couple and asked to sign an agreement stating that he was just a sperm-donor but never put anything in writing. The women’s attorney stated “When push came to shove, they figured he would understand the situation” and called their failure to have it in writing a “mistake”. The man then knew he needed to seek legal representation as his expectation of a, although somewhat nontraditional, family was in jeopardy. With the advice of legal counsel, the man initiated a paternity suit. A paternity action in Florida is filed in order to assist a parent in protecting vital parental rights such as visitation, custody, and financial support. Simply because someone is a biological father does not necessarily lead to him to be recognized as the father in a paternity suit.
The up-hill battle involved two years of litigation in a Florida courtroom; but to the man, this was his family, his future, and paramount interest. In Florida, true sperm donors lack any sort of parental rights. However, what the couple argued was that this was not a case of a sperm donor but rather a man participating only under the idea he was creating a family because of an agreement between the parties. The couple agree that the man is a valued and important part of the child’s life but according to their understanding of the oral agreement, they expected to have exclusive parental rights.
In addition to allowing the man on the birth certificate, Judge Marin also granted weekly visits for the new father. Since January the man has reported he is actually seeing the child more often, and he and the couple have put legal battle behind them. Seeing that all parties had the child’s best interest as their first priority, the Judge was happy to ensure that all three loving parents got the legal recognition they deserve.
Oftentimes, the U.S. Supreme Court determines the future of major corporations and interest groups, but occasionally it will decide the fate of child and two separate families. However, on January 4, 2013, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case of ‘Baby Veronica’. In this case, Veronica’s future is at stake between her adopting parents and her Native American biological father.
The baby Veronica case hinges on the applicability of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). Before the 1970’s, there was no substantial federal statute to safeguard the rights of a Native American child adopted out of their tribe. Many children were adopted, with or without consent, out of their tribes to non-Native families. The ICWA was signed to balance the interests of adopting parents against tribal rights.
Baby Veronica was born in September 2009, her biological father is a member of the Cherokee Nation. Her legal parents lived in South Carolina, knew the biological mother of Veronica and even visited the mother in Oklahoma for the birth. The mother had agreed to the adoption but the biological father fought the adoption. Without any sort of marital bonds between the biological mother and father, typically, this adoption should go on without a hitch.
However, in 2011, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered the return of Veronica to her birth father based on the ICWA’s preferential treatment of paternal rights. As earlier noted, the ICWA not only intended to safeguard tribes and their future generations from purposeful outsider penetration but also to benefit the interests of children growing up outside their culture. Sociological research repeatedly suggests that cross cultural adoption may often leads to severe identity issues. Adoption related identity issues are heavily correlated to later drug use, alcoholism, jail, even self-harm. These issues are heavily prevalent amongst former adopted Native Americans. Adopting parents must be well aware of the struggle their child may go through, which might be foreign to the parents.
The ICWA obviously only regulates adoption cases involving children from tribal homes, but Florida has other state statutes regulating adoption. The Florida Putative Father Registry is state registry for biological fathers. A man who has heterosexual intercourse with a woman in Florida may file a notarized affidavit in the registry. Before an adoption may proceed, a search will be done into the Putative Father Registry for potential biological fathers who may protest the adoption. The potential father only has a limited time after the intercourse to register if he expects to be able object to a possible adoption.
A federal judge has ruled in favor a Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James in a paternity lawsuit brought by a lawyer who alleged that he was the biological father of the NBA superstar. In June, 2010, Leicester Bryce Stovell filed a paternity lawsuit which claimed that in 1984 he had a relationship with the mother, Gloria James.
Stovell, a former lawyer for the United States Securities and Exchange Comission, requested a new paternity test and millions of dollars in damages. He alleged that both James and his mother defamed his character and comitted fraud in concealing that he was the biological father.
In an opinion filed on September 16, 2011, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted a motion to dismiss the case. She found that the lawsuit failed to show that he had incurred actual damages. The court believed that the damages which were requested were speculative in nature. Stovell also sought damages for loss of love and affection. The court found that this was not a recognizable form of damages for common law fraud.
(Photo courtesy of pitbullmusic.com)
Divorce lawyers in Miami have been advised that rapper Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Perez, recently resolved a paternity case which was pending before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr.
Prior to the filing of the Miami paternity action, Pitbull was voluntarily paying $3,000 per month in child support to the mother of his child, Barbara Alba. In her petition, Alba requested child support, shared parental responsibility, a parenting plan and a time-sharing schedule. The mother also requested housing in a secured and gated community and child support based upon the rapper’s lifestyle.
TMZ is reporting that former Miami Heat basketball player, Glen Rice, has filed a paternity action against his ex-girlfriend, Tia Santoro, in South Florida. Through his Miami paternity lawyer, Mr. Rice has requested a DNA test prior to any child support settlement agreement and parenting plan being resolved by the parties or ordered by the Court.
In prior weeks, Ms. Santoro requested law enforcement assistance in order to retrieve her personal belongings from Mr. Rice’s residence. After the breakdown in the relationship, Coral Gables Police Department provided assistance without any altercation from the parties.
The Sun Sentinel is reporting that a Florida woman who was killed in her Tallahassee home had recently been awarded child support by a Florida marital and family law judge. Last Tuesday, Brandi Peters was awarded $307 per month in child support and retroactive child support in the amount of $22,925. The father of the twins, Antonio L. Anthony, had requested a paternity test which was denied by the court. Peters, her 3 year old son and 6 year old twins were all found dead on Saturday.
Law enforcement is treating the deaths as a homicide. They have spoken with the father of the twins and the father of the 3 year old son. The father of the twins has served three prior prison terms, was recently arrested in May, 2009 after serving a four year prison sentence and has prior offenses for aggravated assault with a weapon and armed burglary.